Now, riding a five-game winning streak into Los Angeles, the Mavericks are hoping to do more than just compete with the defending Western Conference champions on Friday night.
Dallas (7-7), back at .500 for the first time since it was 2-2 on Nov. 4, enters following a 109-106 victory over Indiana on Tuesday night after rallying from 13 points down in the third quarter.
Dirk Nowitzki, averaging 28.8 points and 11.6 boards in his last five games, had 24 points and 12 rebounds Tuesday, but it was Jason Terry and Jason Kidd who combined for all of the points in an 18-8 run in the final four minutes as the Mavericks erased a 95-88 deficit.
“Kidd and Terry just made play after play,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Our veterans willed us to a win.”
Terry, who scored 16 of his team-high 29 in the fourth quarter, is averaging 23.0 points and shooting 53.6 percent from the field during the five-game win streak. In the five losses before that run, he shot 37.3 percent and averaged 17.0 points.
His best game during that skid was a 21-point outing in a 106-99 home loss to Los Angeles on Nov. 11. The Mavericks led going into the fourth quarter against what was an unbeaten Lakers team and were within two points in the final minutes.
“We played the best team in the league tonight and took them down to the last minute,” Kidd said after posting a triple-double in that defeat.
Kidd went 1-of-7 from 3-point range versus the Lakers, but he’s shooting 60 percent (9-of-15) from beyond the arc in his last three games. He is hitting a career-best 43.1 percent from 3-point range this season.
He was 3-of-4 on Tuesday, including two in the final 2:26, and scored 11 points to go with his season-high 13 assists, five rebounds and three steals.
“We kept fighting,” Kidd said. “We relied on our defense and got some stops.”
During their five-game winning streak, the Mavericks are holding opponents to 41.0 percent field-goal shooting and 93.0 points per game. In its previous five games, Dallas allowed an average of 103.4 points.
Continuing that trend against the Lakers (12-1) could be a challenge.
Despite Kobe Bryant missing 12 of 17 shots and scoring a season-low 12 points Tuesday, Los Angeles won its fifth straight with a 120-93 victory over the New Jersey Nets. It was a season high in points for the Lakers - the NBA’s highest-scoring team at 107.0 per game - but the fewest for Bryant since he had 11 in a 98-95 loss to Atlanta on Feb. 6.
“I think it’s a good sign and it’s a healthy sign,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “But we want Kobe to shoot the ball well and have big games, obviously. That’s the focal part of our offense - to get things through him. We want to have him be the threat, so that everybody has to overplay and always be concerned with him.”
Bryant has averaged 34.6 points in his last five games versus the Mavericks and he had 27 in the first meeting this season, including nine in the fourth quarter.
Pau Gasol had 22 points and 11 boards in that matchup, and he led the Lakers with 26 points on Tuesday.
Los Angeles is 59-10 all-time at home against Dallas, including wins in 31 of the last 34. The Lakers have won four in a row overall against the Mavs after losing five of six.